IBJNews

Acting Indiana chief justice Dickson picked to head court

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A panel voted Tuesday to make longtime Justice Brent Dickson Indiana's first new chief justice in 25 years after other justices said he was suited to bring stability to the state's judicial system amid the most turnover the Supreme Court has seen in decades.

Dickson, 70, is the longest-serving current member of the five-member Supreme Court and has been the acting chief justice since Randall Shepard retired in March.

Three of the other four justices told the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission they supported Dickson taking over as chief justice. The fourth, Frank Sullivan, who is leaving the court to take a teaching position this fall, didn't address the panel.

Dickson will be leading a court in transition since it is expected this fall to get its third new justice in less than two years after no turnover for more than a decade. It could even get a fourth new member, since Dickson said Justice Robert Rucker hasn't decided whether to seek another 10-year term this fall.

Rucker said that with so much change, the court needed some stability.

"It's my view that with so much uncertainty ... Justice Dickson as acting chief justice has been that steady hand," Rucker said. The court's newest members — Mark Massa and Steven David, both appointed by Gov. Mitch Daniels — also recommended Dickson for the top job.

Massa said the appointment of three new justices in 24 months had brought "unprecedented change" and made continuity vital.

"To me, the commission made the right and natural choice. Brent Dickson is universally respected and has earned the complete trust of his colleagues and lawyers statewide. Any other selection would have been a surprise," Daniels said in a statement.

All three justices stressed that the chief justice does much more than write legal opinions and build consensus on the court — he also is the chief administrator of the state's court system, overseeing five judicial agencies and a myriad of initiatives ranging from programs to help attorneys deal with substance abuse or other personal crises to a long-term move to computerize the state courts and put their business online. Dickson, they said, was the best person for the job.

But Dickson, who has served on the court since 1986, told reporters after the vote that he hadn't initially wanted the position until he was talked into it by judges and other government officials.

"There was a growing number of voices that persuaded me to let myself be considered. We're facing an immense change in personnel on the court and our employees needed to know that stability was going to reign," Dickson said.

"They asked me to at least be willing to serve for a period of time, and I said OK," he added.

Dickson said he will reach the mandatory retirement age of 75 in July 2016, before his five-year term as chief justice expires, but he wasn't sure if he would continue to serve as chief justice until then. "It kind of depends on a lot of personal issues, the issues of filling out the court, getting the vacancies filled. ... It will be sometime between now and July of 2016," he said.

Dickson, who grew up in northwestern Indiana's Hobart, was an attorney in Lafayette when Gov. Robert Orr appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1986. Dickson is one of three current justices who were appointed by Republican governors.

Daniels appointed then-Boone County Judge Steven David to the court when Justice Theodore Boehm retired in 2010. Daniels picked Mark Massa, his former chief counsel in the governor's office, in March to fill the vacancy from Shepard's retirement.

Sullivan, who was appointed in 1993 by Democratic Gov. Evan Bayh, plans to retire this summer to take a teaching job at Indiana University's McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. His replacement will be the third justice to be appointed by Daniels, leaving Rucker as the only Democratic appointee on the court. If Rucker steps down this summer, Daniels could appoint a fourth justice, matching the number appointed by Bayh two decades ago, and shifting the court to entirely Republican appointees.

But justices said Tuesday that politics had no place on the court. "We've never had a D versus R debate," Rucker said. "We've never had anyone come in with an agenda."

Dickson said it was especially important for the chief justice to avoid partisan politics so he could work with both parties in the Statehouse. "The chief justice must be seen as politically neutral," he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Hiking blocks to an office after fighting traffic is not logical. Having office buildings around the loop, 465 and in cities in surrounding counties is logical. In other words, counties around Indianapolis need office buildings like Keystone, Meridian, Michigan Road/College Park and then no need to go downtown. Financial, legal, professional businesses don't need the downtown when Carmel, Fishers, North Indy are building their own central office buildings close to the professionals. The more Hamilton, Boone county attract professionals, the less downtown is relevant. Highrises have no meaning if they don't have adequate parking for professionals and clients. Great for show, but not exactly downtown Chicago, no lakefront, no river to speak of, and no view from highrises of lake Michigan and the magnificent mile. Indianapolis has no view.

  2. "The car count, THE SERIES, THE RACING, THE RATINGS, THE ATTENDANCE< AND THE MANAGEMENT, EVERY season is sub-par." ______________ You're welcome!

  3. that it actually looked a lot like Sato v Franchitti @Houston. And judging from Dario's marble mouthed presentation providing "color", I'd say that he still suffers from his Dallara inflicted head injury._______Considering that the Formula E cars weren't going that quickly at that exact moment, that was impressive air time. But I guess we shouldn't be surprised, as Dallara is the only car builder that needs an FAA certification for their cars. But flying Dallaras aren't new. Just ask Dan Wheldon.

  4. Does anyone know how and where I can get involved and included?

  5. While the data supporting the success of educating our preschoolers is significant, the method of reaching this age group should be multi-faceted. Getting business involved in support of early childhood education is needed. But the ways for businesses to be involved are not just giving money to programs and services. Corporations and businesses educating their own workforce in the importance of sending a child to kindergarten prepared to learn is an alternative way that needs to be addressed. Helping parents prepare their children for school and be involved is a proven method for success. However, many parents are not sure how to help their children. The public is often led to think that preschool education happens only in schools, daycare, or learning centers but parents and other family members along with pediatricians, librarians, museums, etc. are valuable resources in educating our youngsters. When parents are informed through work lunch hour workshops in educating a young child, website exposure to exceptional teaching ideas that illustrate how to encourage learning for fun, media input, and directed community focus on early childhood that is when a difference will be seen. As a society we all need to look outside the normal paths of educating and reaching preschoolers. It is when methods of involving the most important adult in a child's life - a parent, that real success in educating our future workers will occur. The website www.ifnotyouwho.org is free and illustrates activities that are research-based, easy to follow and fun! Businesses should be encouraging their workers to tackle this issue and this website makes it easy for parents to be involved. The focus of preschool education should be to inspire all the adults in a preschooler's life to be aware of what they can do to prepare a child for their future life. Fortunately we now know best practices to prepare a child for a successful start to school. Is the business community ready to be involved in educating preschoolers when it becomes more than a donation but a challenge to their own workers?

ADVERTISEMENT